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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Gates to go: Industry reaction
Bill Gates' decision to step back from full-time role at Microsoft has set the hi-tech world talking. Here, two industry veterans give their reaction to the news.

Screengrab of Om Malik's biography, Business 2.0
Om Malik's GigaOm blog is required reading for net watchers
Om Malik is a senior writer for Business 2.0 magazine and author of the influential GigaOm blog that maps where net technology is heading.

"This is a smart thing for Microsoft to do," Mr Malik told the BBC News website.

"It signals a change of attitude andhow we think about Microsoft as a company going forward," he said. "The company needs fresh thinking more than anything else."

Before now, Bill Gates had overshadowed the way Microsoft developed, said Mr Malik. Many staffers at the software giant doubtless asked themselves what Bill would think before deciding what technologies to pursue.

"The ghost of Bill Gates is everywhere in Microsoft and that means they measure things to Bill's standards," said Mr Malik.

While it will take time for Mr Gates' influence to fade, his replacement Ray Ozzie has a very different outlook on the software world.

"He's all about open platforms," said Mr Malik. "We're already seeing a company in the middle of a transition and this is part of that change."

Few should forget, said Mr Malik, that it is by no means decided who will truly make a success of the new networked world of business and leisure. While there was no doubt that Google and Yahoo are strong competitors, Microsoft has its advantages too.

He said: "They have as good a shot at this whole networking thing as anyone."

Mr Malik added: "The PC is not dead yet. With 900 million PCs sold it's still a pretty strong business. The company is still throwing out profit like nobody else."

Also, he said, its main customers were large corporations, many of whom were likely to be conservative in their appetite for changing core technology.

The Windows operating system was also likely to survive, though perhaps in altered form.

"Increasingly the difference between the desktop and the web will vanish and we might see new types of Windows come forward," he said. "We will see it evolve definitely, there will be many different forms of Windows in the future."

Philippe Courtot
Courtot says Microsoft must react more quickly to hi-tech change
Serial entrepreneur Philippe Courtot has shepherded many hi-tech start-ups to significant success. His most recent venture is security firm Qualys - a standard bearer for the software-as-a-service movement.

"Bill Gates has been at Microsoft for a long, long time," said Mr Courtot. "He has been fighting for a long time, he has a lot of tenacity, but there's only so much one person can take."

Mr Gates decision to step down, albeit in 2008, indicated that the second revolution in the hi-tech industry has ended, said Mr Courtot.

The first revolution was the shift away from large mainframe computers. The second was the rise of desktop computers and local networks. The third, said Mr Courtot, was the rise of the internet and the demands of more mobile users.

What was important to realise, said Mr Courtot, was that these changes do not just herald a shift in which technologies are used. They also bring with them big changes in what these technologies make possible, how companies prosper and what customers expect.

Gone are the days when a company could announce what it planned to put in the next release of its software and then spend years developing to that plan, Mr Courtot told the BBC News website.

The development of Vista, the next version of the Windows operating system, was a perfect example of this old-fashioned way of working.

"16 million lines of code and four years of development? This is insane," said Mr Courtot.

"Qualys develop on a continuous basis," said Mr Courtot, "there is no project that requires more than three months work."

Unlike makers of mainframe computers, such as IBM, which had about 15 years to adjust to the changes that overcame them, Microsoft was unlikely to enjoy such a period of grace said Mr Courtot.

There were few markets where Microsoft led the way technically and on the desktop and in office software its hold is likely to be eroded swiftly, he said.

What was likely to change in the near future was Windows, he said, to help it adapt to the more networked world.

"The operating system could be simplified significantly," he said. "It's trying to do too much, it's trying to be everything."

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